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They Made Me a Criminal

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They Made Me a Criminal

Published 1939

Boxer Johnny Bradfield (John Garfield) knocks out a rival in a postfight brawl. Thinking he committed murder, he flees to an Arizona ranch run by hard-as-nails Goldie (Ann Sheridan) and her feisty mother(May Robson) and staffed by Leo Gorcey and the Dead End Kids. Though Johnny is relentlessly dogged by Detective Monty Phelan (Claude Rains), the Kids convince him to finance their future gas station by training for and winning a high stakes prizefight. But just as things seem to going "swell" for both Johnny and the Kids, Phelan shows up ready to take Johnny back east in handcuffs? Or is he?

Run time 91 minutes
Producer Hal Wallis
Production Company Warner Bros.
Audio/Visual sound, black and white


Reviewer: junya - - June 8, 2015
Subject: Ward Bond
In response to an earlier review, just to set the record straight: Ward Bond was not playing one of the fight's challengers - he played the fight promoter.
Reviewer: ClassicFilmFan - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 30, 2013
Subject: Good film. Worth the time to finish it. Don't abandon ship during the first half hour.
In the first third, I didn't feel a lot of warmth toward Garfield's character. It looked like it was going to be a real downer of a film in the early going, but I'm glad I stuck around to see what happened.

Some of it is predictable, I grant you that. And, in the first third, I thought the acting was a let down. However, it kept me hooked enough that I needed to find out exactly how it would play out. Things get much better as it moves along.

(No spoilers, don't worry) The scene in the water tank was sufficiently nerve wracking that I believed the acting completely. The "Kids" sure are young in this one, but they did a really nice job. They played it pretty naturally - believably - about 98% of the time.

Garfield was quite good, but he wasn't as on-fire as he was for example in The Postman Always Rings Twice. Then again, this is seven years before that amazing piece of work. He's not as seasoned, but he did great job on it.

I wasn't nearly as excited to watch Claude Rains in this. I usually love his acting, but this just seemed a little bit forced to me. Maybe that's just me though.

Cinematographer, by the way, was the amazing James Wong Howe.

Look for Ward Bond in a smaller role here - I believe he played the boxer who went in the ring with "The Bull" right before Johnny/Jack. He did a nice job with that part, decent acting. In fact, he nearly stole the limelight in his scenes, tugging at the heartstrings with the nervousness he was trying to hide.

I give it four out of five, but I'd really rather give it 4-1/2. It wasn't a perfect film, but it was darned good, and worth the time. I was pleased with the ending, but I think I'd rather they added just a little more to the closing scene (by bringing Peggy in with Jack/Johnny.)
Reviewer: scribbler289 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 3, 2013
Subject: A classic!
Great film, enjoyable story! Recommended!
Reviewer: Dark Moon - - May 6, 2011
Subject: Is this the same movie? described above, and that others have reviewed below? (I downloaded the Ipod version.) Here is my description (before I stopped watching):

Boxer Johnny Bradfield (John Garfield) soon has an opportunity to discover just how much his life matches up to his cynical world view when his manager kills a newspaper reporter and then frames Johnny for it (and incidentally steals Johnny's cash, wristwatch, and girlfriend, just as Johnny forecast he would).

Soon after the murder, the manager and Johnny's girlfriend die in a fiery car crash while running from the police. With the bodies burned beyond recognition, the coroner assumes that it was Johnny who died, because the manager was wearing Johnny's wristwatch. Johnny learns about the murder (for which he is accused) and car crash (in which he is thought to have died) from a newspaper after awakening from a drunken sleep the next morning.

Meanwhile, former detective Monty Phelan (Claude Rains) suspects from the coroner's evidence that Johnny is not dead. Having been demoted and made the butt of constant ridicule after a man was falsely sent to the electric chair on erroneous evidence he provided, Monty is more than eager to re-establish his credibility. Finally persuading the chief inspector to reopen the investigation, Monty sets off in pursuit of Johnny.

Having just read the newspaper, but not yet knowing that anyone suspects he is still alive, Johnny is scared and desperate. He seeks the advice of his attorney. Instead of helping Johnny to clear his name, this crooked slime advises Johnny to change his name, run like a fugitive, and never to raise a fist to anyone lest his boxing stance be recognized. Having thus contributed to "making him a criminal" (as per the title), this piece of sh*t lawyer is in the perfect position to scam Johnny out of his cash reserve held in a safe deposit box. Calling Johnny a "sucker" right to his face, he packs Johnny off to ride the rails (hobo style) into parts unknown. At this point I stopped, reread this page, and decided to give the film another chance.

Exhausted and confused from running, Johnny stops at a diner for a bite to eat. When fatigue causes him to clumsily fumble what cash he has left, three tough guys at the counter near him see and become interested. When Johnny drops a bill on the floor, one of the toughs steps on it and claims it as his own. Johnny raises a fist, then a look of horror spreads across his face as he remembers what the lawyer told him.

At this point I stopped watching, and sent the file swirling down the porcelain. If I want "film noir" (more like "Les Miserables with an extra helping of dirt") like this, all I need do is turn on the daily news (I already know how mean the world can get); I want something different from my entertainment. Maybe Johnny finds his ranch and East End Kids, and even makes a new life for himself, but I couldn't stay with it to find out. They laid it on far too thickly in the beginning with the "humans are dirty rotten scum" trope, and I just had to bail.

Had I known, I would have quickly passed up this movie. I've slammed into some pretty nasty stuff in my time (some of it nauseatingly graphic) because there wasn't a clue in the description, nor in the comments. I hope that doesn't happen too often here at IA. (This won't be the first time I've posted a "heads up" for the next person.)

Then again, maybe I'm better off to go bake some muffins, too. Thanks to splue for a recipe.

No rating, because I didn't sit through the whole thing.
Reviewer: splue - favorite - May 6, 2011
Subject: they made me

then they made me make muffins


1 egg 1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar 1 heaping teaspoon baking
1 cup sweet milk powder

1^ cups flour Butter size of a walnut

Sift the dry ingredients together and add the beaten egg in milk and the melted butter; place in well greased muffin pans and bake fifteen minutes in a quick oven.
Reviewer: keygrip - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 27, 2009
Subject: John making his mark
This is one of Garfield's early movies and a worthy effort although he didn't really hit his stride until a few years later.
A typical Warner Bros.crime drama, well done,albeit with a strange choice of director. Too little is seen of Ann Sheridan who plays his doomed girlfriend (the one who runs out on him,not the farm girlfriend mentioned elsewhere on this page).
The Dead End Kids go through their usual routine but Claude Raines doesn't have a lot to do.
However, all in all, a movie to enjoy, even though it was overshadowed by bigger and better movies made in what turned out to be Hollywood's Golden Year
Reviewer: zeneida - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 13, 2008
Subject: error
Is it just my version or does anyone else's have a glitch on their video? I'll try to download it again to recheck.
Reviewer: jimelena - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 19, 2005
Subject: It's good
Well, I'm not going to criticize this one, there's too many good points. Click and watch, you'll like it.
Reviewer: adios - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 14, 2005
Subject: A minor classic
Hail, hail - the gang's all here, in this fine, entertaining specimen of Warner's "working class" dramas, a remake of 1933's The Life and Times of Jimmy Dolan. The young, dynamic John Garfield, crusty May Robson, rowdy Dead End Kids, and Claude Rains (as the pursuing detective) keep things bubbling along. Busby Berkeley once again demonstrates his skill at directing non-musical narratives. By the way, Garfield was born Jacob Garfinkle and, after being brought up by relatives, lived the life of a hobo until joining the Civic Repertory Theatre in 1932 and soon after the Group Theatre, established by Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, and Cheryl Crawford. This role is typical of the gritty portrayals that characterized Garfield's tenure at Warner Bros. Max Steiner (music) and James Wong Howe (cinematography) contributed.
Reviewer: OleMovieWatcher - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 23, 2005
Subject: Good Flick!
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

I did catch one error, though - I was just amused that they didn't edit it from the film. In the scene just after the water tower scene, notice when "Jack" and the boys are driving home, one of the boys call him "Johnny". No big deal, just "oops". Doesn't impact the film in any way.

Try it, you'll like it!
Reviewer: Danial - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 3, 2005
Subject: Excellent
The best Gorcey and Gang flick I have seen to date. Most enjoyable with great nonstop fun from beginning to end.
Reviewer: DaBoid - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 15, 2005
Subject: A great Dead End Kid classic
I remember watchin this movie when i was a kid i liked it then and it is still a good family classic today
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